On a practical basis, this means that Vodacom will be bringing faster data services to tens of thousands more people living in rural areas who currently only have voice services and EDGE data services. Additional investment will increase network capacity, help provide improved voice quality and will enhance mobile data speeds in rural areas. It will also consolidate Vodacom’s position as South Africa’s best network and the network provider with the country’s best rural coverage.
“Network accessibility for people who reside in rural areas remains central to Vodacom’s commitment of extending network coverage to all South Africans, irrespective of class and economic status,” said Andries Delport, Chief Technology Officer for Vodacom Group. “It is our firm view that broadband penetration has transformative power and is an enabler for economic and social growth and as such, makes it an essential tool for empowering people in rural areas.”
Through its continued investment in its Rural Coverage Network Expansion Programme, Vodacom has already committed to roll out to an additional 150 small deep rural communities in this year alone. Most of these communities are in KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, North West and the Free State.Vodacom has already achieved 99.9% urban and 99.6% of rural population voice coverage and 99.9% urban and 95.6% of rural population data coverage.
While this presents a tremendous achievement, we are now looking at innovative ways to connect the outstanding 4.4% rural population with data coverage and 0.4% population with voice coverage. What makes this challenging is poor available infrastructure and the very low population density, meaning that many base stations have to be built to cover the remaining rural areas.
“Vodacom is taking steps in ensuring that people in rural areas are connected and have access to fast data speeds, so that they too become part of the Mobile Revolution and are able to take full advantage of its positive impacts,” said Delport. “It can no longer be acceptable that multitudes of people in our rural areas watch the Internet Revolution from the side-lines without being part of it.”